Health Care

Love, Family, and Service: The Zerbee Family

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Richard Zerbee came to Oneida Mountain Hospital in 1967 to work in the Laboratory. His mother worked as a nurse for Dr. Chu for many years, and he was very familiar with the area. While Richard had many hesitations about moving to the rural mountains of Appalachia, he prayed and asked God's guidance and will for his life. God gave him precise answers to his prayers, which revealed to Richard that the Lord had called him here. He remained in Clay County, Kentucky, to follow God's call on his life to serve at Oneida and then at Manchester Memorial Hospital (now AdventHealth Manchester) until his retirement in 1998.

During his diverse career, Richard led several departments, including human resources, the ambulance service, home health, radiology services, and laboratory services. Because of the many departments he had the opportunity to lead, Richard had a unique view of the dramatic advances in technology during his over 30-year career. During the beginning of his career at Oneida Mountain Hospital, he recalls that the lab only had one light bulb, a microscope, and maybe a few chemicals. Richard's wife, Arlene, explained, "it was hard work, and you really had to pay close attention to what you were doing, but it was really fun." Over the years, the equipment and technology advancements transformed all departments, especially the Laboratory, from very labor intensive, manual processes to more computer-based processes. Both Richard and Arlene have been amazed by the advancements and hospital growth over the years.

The couple shared how one of the most significant accomplishments of Richard's career, establishing blood banks in Clay Co., came about. Before establishing a blood bank in Clay Co., anyone that came to the hospital in need of a blood transfusion would have to rely on a volunteer to donate blood. Not only did they have to find a volunteer, but they had to find someone who had a blood type that would match the patient's blood type. This process was very risky, and many times, patients couldn't get the blood they needed. Central Kentucky Blood System connected with Richard during his time as Lab Director. They worked together to establish an in-house blood bank at the hospital. Because of this great accomplishment, Richard was honored and named a Kentucky Colonel.

Twelve years after Richard began his career with the hospital, Arlene joined the team. Her first role at the hospital was working in the church-school as a teacher. It was at this little church-school where the couple's love story began. Arlene shared the sweet story of how the couple met and began dating:

Richard had made a track by the hospital, which also passed by the school. I saw him jogging, and he noticed me noticing him. We talked, and I flirted with him, which was extremely out of character for me, but after that, we eventually began dating. We also attended church together. I was from Jackson County and didn't want to come to Clay County, because it was too far away from home, but it was the Lord's plan for me to come here. I am so blessed and thankful that I came here and that I met my husband. We have been together for 41 years.

Arlene laughs as she remembers people in the community teasing her that she "scooped him up" because Richard was the most eligible bachelor in Manchester.

After her tenure at the church-school, Arlene transitioned to working part-time in medical records. At that time, medical records didn't have anyone certified in their department, so Arlene volunteered to take the certification training. The hospital team encouraged her to pursue it. She worked in medical records for 16 years and worked in registration for many years as well. After many years of service at the hospital, Arlene decided she wanted to become a nurse. Once again, the hospital team and administration were very helpful and supportive of her goal to pursue a nursing career. They encouraged her to continue her education and to not only obtain an associate RN but a B.S., then to continue on to get her master's degree. She shared how incredibly grateful she is to the administrator, Bob Burchard, who was so encouraging to her as she pursued her education and was very encouraging to all of the team members working at the hospital who wanted to further their education and achieve their career goals. Arlene now works for AdventHealth Manchester as a Family Nurse Practitioner and is an invaluable member of our team. She is dedicated to our mission of extending the healing ministry of Christ and the care of our community. She cares for various patient populations and serves at different facilities, including the jail and Jackson County Nursing Home.

The mission-focused hearts and dedicated work ethic of Richard and Arlene Zerbee have impacted the community, our hospital, and the next generation, especially the life of their son, Richard Zerbee, Jr.

Richard Jr. shared some of the beautiful memories he has from growing up around the hospital and the impact those that served here have had on his life. When he was a child, there was a nursery across the street from Oneida Mountain Hospital for the workers' children. He recalls how his teachers, Beulah Davidson and Della Mae Berry, kept all the kids in line and the many fond memories he had there as a child. He vividly remembers the opening on the Manchester hospital and shared,

I was only 7 years old when they transitioned over to the hospital in Manchester. I remember the hospital opening, and even though I was just 7, I remember what a big deal it was. I remember driving up to the hospital with my family when it opened and how the road wasn't even paved yet; it was still just a gravel road and all the little flags along the road coming up to the hospital. When I was 8, I was a patient at the hospital when I had to have my tonsils taken out. The surgery was a much bigger deal back then. My sister got her tonsils taken out at the same time. We had to stay in the hospital the night before surgery and then a few days after the surgery. Dr. Chu removed our tonsils. I remember how the hospital didn't have TVs in the rooms at that time and as a little kid, I was so bored when I had to stay in the hospital.

Richard Jr. came to know and love the hospital because it was a home away from home for him. Growing up playing around the hospital campus as a kid, then eventually working for the hospital, he has many special memories tied to this place. He recalls “the apple tree behind the hospital that had the best apples. They also had horses at the hospital at that time. I remember riding horses up to the apple tree and enjoying sitting in the shade and the sweet apples after hanging out in the gardens behind the hospital, searching for arrowheads, and having other childhood adventures on the hospital campus.”

Like his parents, Richard Jr. worked in several different roles at the hospital before going on to nursing school and beginning his work at his current role as an RN at the University of Kentucky's Markey Cancer Center. Richard Jr.'s first job as a teenager was sweeping the hospital parking lots every few days. Later on, he transitioned to a position in maintenance mowing grass, then began working in housekeeping under the leadership of his former nursery teachers, Ms. Beulah Davidson and Ms. Della Mae Berry. He recalls the joys of working with his former teachers and how amazed he was that, despite her tiny frame, Ms. Della Mae could run the large floor buffing machine with complete ease. A task that Richard Jr. laughingly remembers he struggled with tremendously. Richard eventually began working in registration, a role he described as "an always exciting job, you never knew what would walk through the doors or what excitement each day would be filled with." Richard Jr. shared how blessed he feels that he got to "grow up with so many amazing people and to have built so many beautiful relationships here. No matter where I live, this will always be home to me."

The individuals and families like the Zerbee Family have built our hospital and helped ensure the continuation of the healing ministry of Christ throughout the decades. We celebrate their stories—stories of love, childhood, faith, and family. The heart of AdventHealth Manchester lies in those who serve in our hospital and our community. We are truly blessed to have the Zerbee family as a part of our AdventHealth family.

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